Next week marks the beginning of DeKalb County Schools officially gathering public input into their future plans for high schools and middle schools in the county. Click here for meeting dates, times, and locations.

We can make decisions that will benefit one or two clusters more than others, or we can make decisions that will benefit the greatest number of students. The way I see it, there is really only one “big-picture” option to consider. We need to consider options that will be long-term solutions.

From all that I have seen from teaching and living along Buford Highway, and from all my conversations with different city officials, community members, and students and their families, I believe the best option for Region 1 of North DeKalb would be to create school attendance zones (clusters) 1 according to the general city boundaries (as outlined in this original post) — a Brookhaven cluster, a Chamblee cluster, a Doraville cluster, and a Dunwoody cluster.


 

Creating a New Cluster
The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates we will add over 22,000 people to the area of DeKalb north of I-85 by the year 2040 (155,000 total population growth the county). In order to address the overcrowding and dilapidated conditions in many of the Region 1 schools, we need more schools and we need renovations to current schools.

If we create school attendance zones that mimic these city lines, we could create the enviable “community school,” something many parents across the region advocate for.

The tighter district lines meet the needs of those who want to have a more consolidated community that centers around one high school (with its feeder middle school(s) and elementary schools), allowing for a community “center” (similar to that of Decatur High School)

decatur

  1. The tighter district lines meet the needs of those who want to have a more consolidated community that centers around one high school (with its feeder middle school(s) and elementary schools), allowing for a community “center” (similar to that of Decatur High School, pictured above).
  2. The smaller district will allow for more efficient transportation for students (since the buses won’t have to take students up to 10 miles to their high school, as they currently do within the Cross Keys HS attendance zone).
  3. Promote integration of different socioeconomic statuses and races.
  4. Those who want a city school district will be able to, in some ways, have this (without the ability to control personnel within the school and without the ability to control funding).

Here is a very crude rendering of what the boundary lines could look like with this new “Doraville” high school:

tri cities

The New Doraville Cluster

Because Dunwoody High School and Cross Keys High School are overcapacity, building a new high school in Doraville would be one of the best ways to address this issue while also accomplishing the above-listed goals. I know that the city officials of Doraville have been advocating for this, so acquiring some of the city-owned land could be a possible route for DCSS to explore.

This cluster would consist of the Doraville high school, Sequoyah Middle School, Cary Reynolds Elementary School, Hightower Elementary School, and a new Doraville elementary school.

I also wanted to suggest the complete renovation and/or demolition and reconstruction of Cary Reynolds Elementary School. This building is unfit for students. It has visible mold and mildew (and the smell to accommodate) and is clearly too small of a facility to educate our kids equitably.

We could build a brand new, 900-student facility here, and — from my conversations with former and current teachers, as well as families of students who have attended there — I feel that the community and teachers would support this endeavor.

A new elementary school could also be constructed somewhere in the Doraville cluster to provide a new educational building for students in the overcrowded Cary Reynolds and Hightower Elementary School facilities.

The New Chamblee Cluster

The Chamblee cluster would consist of Chamblee Charter High School, Chamblee Middle School, Montgomery Elementary School, Dresden Elementary School, and Huntley Hills Elementary School.

This is the cluster that I think will be the least affected by this change but could perhaps see the most opposition. The only change would be that this cluster would add Dresden Elementary School (physical school) as a feeder school and Ashford Park Elementary School (the physical building — not necessarily all the students) would become a feeder school for the Cross Keys cluster.

Dresden ES is located 2.9 miles from Chamblee and it is located in Chamblee’s city limits; Ashford Park ES is about the same distance to Chamblee HS and Cross Keys HS. And — if we realign the attendance zone to more closely reflect the neighborhood, even Ashford Park ES has described itself as “a lively elementary school nestled in a charming Brookhaven community.”

asford park
Ashford Park School (website)

I already have been made aware that some parents are strongly against being moved out of the Chamblee HS cluster, so this could be something that parent groups would need to discuss and consider. If there are other alternatives, I think discussions like these could bring them out. However, I already understand that while some parents will say they want their children to be in the Chamblee cluster because of the high school, other parents have said the following either on Facebook or to my face:

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I have also been told by an Ashford Park resident that “people in Ashford Park don’t spend $700,000 on a house for their kids to go to Cross Keys.”

I think that we need to truly examine ourselves and our district if we are going to continue to let these types of reasons be the reasons why we decide not to redistrict or rebuild in certain areas. I believe if people want to spend a lot of money for their children’s education, then they are welcome to attend private school.

However, when an individual purchases a house in a neighborhood, they don’t become entitled to a particular school. The school is public and the decisions made for the schools must be in the best interest of the public. Public schools are supposed to be equal across the board, and it is the district’s obligation to ensure that this is done.

The New Cross Keys Cluster 
The Cross Keys Cluster, with the creation of the new Doraville cluster, will change dramatically. This cluster will no longer be an elongated, 10-mile attendance zone that is over 80% Hispanic, but it will instead resemble the lines of the city of Brookhaven a bit more closely (although Montgomery ES in the north — under these proposed lines — would be in the Chamblee cluster).

This cluster would consist of Cross Keys High School, a new Brookhaven middle school, a new elementary school (possibly at the former Skyland ES), Montclair Elementary School, and Ashford Park Elementary School. Because Brookhaven is currently experiencing so much of the growth along the Buford Highway corridor, and because its elementary schools are overcrowded, building new schools in this part of town seems to make sense.

I know many of my students love the fact that Cross Keys HS consists of a pretty homogeneous student body, and I know that even I as a teacher would miss many aspects of that homogeneity. However, I think from a more practical standpoint, aligning the attendance zones in a more geographically sensible way is the most financially expedient and most equitable course of action.

Not only would there be the positive aspects that true diversity brings with it, but it would also address the issue of overcrowding in the middle schools by creating a new cluster and necessarily a new middle school (since Sequoyah Middle School would be within the new Doraville attendance zone). That middle school could be built somewhere within the city of Brookhaven.

The Dunwoody Cluster
I don’t want to pretend like I understand all the different concerns of those who live in Dunwoody, but I do want to say that this cluster needs renovations and additions. From my analysis of the data and the number of trailers on the different schools in this particular cluster, overcrowding is beginning and is only going to get worse.

Creating the Doraville high school cluster would move some of the students, but it still wouldn’t solve all the overcapacity issues. I hope that this time around, however, SPLOST monies find their way to addressing the overcapacity issues in the northern part of DeKalb. I think if we can address these needs, families and students in Dunwoody will be less likely to push fora separation between them and DCSS in the form of advocating for an independent school district.


 

I know these issues are difficult, and I don’t want to speak for the entire community. However, I do want to continue the conversation and provide food for thought as these very important meetings take place beginning next week at Tucker High School.

Please feel free to contact me or to comment below. rebekahcmorris@gmail.com

Current Breakdown of Trailers for Region 1

Cluster Campus Single Trailers (or “Portables”) Quad Structures (4 Rooms) Total  Trailer “Classrooms”
Chamblee Montgomery 5 0 5
Kittredge 0 0 0
Huntley Hills 6 0 6
Ashford Park 5 0 5
Chamblee MS 0 0 0
Chamblee HS 0 0 0
TOTAL CHAMBLEE   16 0 16
Average 2.6 structures per campus
Cross Keys Oakcliff 0 0 0
Cary Reynolds 25 0 25
Montclair 9 0 9
Dresden 26 0 26
Woodward 8 1 12
Sequoyah 5 3 17
Cross Keys 3 3 15
TOTAL CROSS KEYS   86 7 114
Average 13.3 structures per campus
Dunwoody Austin 4 0 4
Vanderlyn 3 2 11
Dunwoody ES 1 0 1
Kingsley 5 0 5
Chestnut 1 0 1
Hightower 9 1 13
Peachtree MS 4 2 12
Dunwoody HS 0 0 0
TOTAL DUNWOODY   26 5 46
Average 3.9 structures per campus